Friends of a young Indian-American woman who has been diagnosed with a rare disease have launched a unique drive in a New York bar to get bone marrow donors to save her and others like her. South Asians make up an alarmingly low number of the registered bone marrow donors in the US. Out of 10.5 million registered donors, only 6.8 percent are Asian with South Asians constituting less than two percent.
The drive has been organised to help Monica Chopra, resident of a San Francisco suburb, who at 26 was diagnosed with severe aplastic anaemia, in which the bone marrow stops making enough red blood cells, white cells and platelets for the body.
The only cure is a bone marrow donation. Her doctors have been experimenting with immunosuppressive therapy, a way to suppress the white blood cells so her red cells and platelets can grow.
To date no one in Chopra's immediate or extended family are a match, including her only brother Neil.
As soon as Chopra heard about her rare condition, the first thing she did was reach out to the ones closest to her and asked them to live their life to the fullest, her friends say.
The idea behind having a social mixer in the heart of New York City is to find a South Asian donor aged 18 to 44 as similar ethnicities have the highest chances of being matches for one another.
Potential donors have been invited to come to the Van Diemens Bar and get registered at Be The Match Registry with a cheek swab with a Q-tip and "enjoy happy hour drink prices and complimentary appetizers."
Aplastic anemia affects just 5 in every one million people. The genetic marker used for matching are inherited, so patients are more likely to match someone from their own heritage.
In 2012, Be The Match Registry saved 6,000 lives with transplants.